Hydrogen Fueling Infrastructure for Aviation

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Hydrogen fueling infrastructure encompasses the systems and facilities required to produce, store, transport, and deliver hydrogen fuel to aircraft at airports. This includes:

  • Hydrogen Production: On-site or off-site facilities for generating green hydrogen from renewable sources, such as electrolysis powered by solar or wind energy.
  • Hydrogen Storage: Large-scale storage tanks to hold liquid hydrogen or compressed hydrogen gas, ensuring a consistent supply of fuel for aircraft.
  • Hydrogen Distribution: Pipelines or specialized trucks for transporting hydrogen from production facilities to airport storage tanks and fueling stations.
  • Airport Fueling Stations: Dedicated fueling stations equipped with specialized equipment for safely and efficiently transferring hydrogen to aircraft.

Impact on climate action

The establishment of hydrogen fueling infrastructure in aviation presents a pivotal step towards low-carbon flight. By enabling the adoption of hydrogen-powered aircraft, this innovation drastically reduces aviation’s carbon footprint. It accelerates the transition to sustainable air travel, fostering a significant positive impact on global climate action efforts.


  • Electrolysis: This process uses electricity to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen, producing green hydrogen when powered by renewable energy sources.
  • Cryogenic Storage: Storing hydrogen in liquid form at extremely low temperatures (-253°C) to maximize energy density and minimize storage volume.
  • Compressed Gas Storage: Storing hydrogen as a gas under high pressure, requiring specialized tanks and safety systems.
  • Fueling Protocols: Developing standardized fueling protocols and safety procedures for handling and transferring hydrogen to aircraft, ensuring safe and efficient operations.
  • Safety Regulations: Establishing comprehensive safety regulations and standards for hydrogen production, storage, and handling at airports to minimize risks and ensure public safety.

TRL : 6-7

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Modular and Scalable Infrastructure: Developing modular and scalable hydrogen production and storage systems that can be easily deployed and expanded as demand grows.
  • On-Site Hydrogen Generation: Exploring technologies for generating hydrogen directly at airports, utilizing renewable energy sources such as solar or wind power, reducing transportation costs and emissions.
  • Liquid Organic Hydrogen Carriers (LOHCs): Investigating the use of LOHCs, which can store hydrogen in a liquid form at ambient temperatures and pressures, offering potential advantages for safe and efficient storage and transport.
  • Automated Fueling Systems: Developing automated and robotic systems for hydrogen fueling to enhance safety, speed, and efficiency.
  • Integrated Energy Management: Integrating hydrogen fueling infrastructure with airport energy management systems to optimize energy usage, balance supply and demand, and minimize costs.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Green Hydrogen Production Technologies
  • Cryogenic Hydrogen Storage Solutions
  • Compressed Gas Storage Systems
  • Modular Infrastructure Development
  • On-Site Hydrogen Generation
  • Liquid Organic Hydrogen Carriers (LOHCs)
  • Automated Fueling Systems
  • Renewable Energy-Powered Electrolysis
  • Hydrogen Pipeline Transport Solutions
  • Hydrogen Trucking Logistics
  • Fueling Station Design Innovations
  • Scalable Infrastructure Deployment
  • Cost-Effective Hydrogen Production
  • Efficient Hydrogen Distribution Networks
  • Hydrogen Fueling System Automation

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • Universal Hydrogen:
    • Technology Focus: Universal Hydrogen is likely concentrating on developing infrastructure solutions for hydrogen fueling, including production, storage, and distribution systems. They might also be involved in developing hydrogen-powered aircraft or vehicles.
    • Uniqueness: One of Universal Hydrogen’s unique propositions could be their holistic approach to hydrogen infrastructure, offering end-to-end solutions that encompass production, distribution, and utilization. They might also focus on standardization and scalability to accelerate the adoption of hydrogen as a clean energy source.
    • End-User Segments: Their target segments may include aviation, transportation, and industrial applications where hydrogen can serve as a clean alternative to traditional fuels.
  • ZeroAvia:
    • Technology Focus: ZeroAvia specializes in hydrogen-electric powertrain technology for aviation. They focus on developing hydrogen fuel cells for aircraft propulsion, aiming to create zero-emission aviation solutions.
    • Uniqueness: ZeroAvia stands out for its focus on decarbonizing aviation through hydrogen-electric propulsion systems. Their technology has the potential to revolutionize air travel by offering a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels.
    • End-User Segments: Their primary end-users are likely commercial airlines, cargo operators, and other stakeholders in the aviation industry looking to reduce their carbon footprint and comply with emissions regulations.
  • Element One:
    • Technology Focus: Element One may be focused on hydrogen fueling infrastructure for various transportation applications, including fueling stations, storage systems, and distribution networks. They might also offer consulting services for hydrogen implementation projects.
    • Uniqueness: Element One could differentiate itself through its expertise in designing and implementing hydrogen infrastructure tailored to specific applications and geographic regions. They might also focus on innovative solutions for hydrogen storage and distribution to address challenges such as cost and scalability.
    • End-User Segments: Their target segments could include automotive manufacturers, fleet operators, public transportation agencies, and infrastructure developers seeking to adopt hydrogen as a clean fuel for vehicles.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  1. Technical University of Delft:
    • Technology Enhancements: Researchers at TU Delft are pioneering advancements in hydrogen fueling infrastructure for low-carbon aviation. They are focusing on developing innovative hydrogen storage and delivery systems, including cryogenic storage tanks, high-pressure pipelines, and refueling stations equipped with advanced dispensing technologies.
    • Uniqueness of Research: TU Delft’s research stands out for its holistic approach, integrating hydrogen production, storage, distribution, and utilization into a comprehensive infrastructure network tailored for aviation applications. They are addressing technical challenges such as hydrogen embrittlement, material compatibility, and safety considerations to ensure the reliability and scalability of the hydrogen supply chain.
    • End-use Applications: The hydrogen fueling infrastructure developed at TU Delft has potential applications in various sectors beyond aviation, including road transportation, maritime shipping, and stationary power generation. By enabling the widespread adoption of hydrogen as a clean energy carrier, this infrastructure contributes to decarbonizing the transportation sector and mitigating climate change.
  2. Cranfield University:
    • Technology Enhancements: Cranfield University is at the forefront of research on hydrogen fueling infrastructure tailored specifically for aviation needs. They are developing compact and lightweight hydrogen storage systems optimized for aircraft use, as well as efficient refueling protocols to minimize turnaround times and maximize operational efficiency.
    • Uniqueness of Research: Cranfield’s research is characterized by its focus on practical implementation and real-world integration. They are conducting field trials and demonstrations of hydrogen refueling infrastructure at airports, collaborating closely with industry partners to ensure compatibility with existing aircraft and ground support equipment.
    • End-use Applications: The hydrogen fueling infrastructure developed by Cranfield University has direct applications in the aviation sector, enabling the deployment of hydrogen-powered aircraft for regional and short-haul flights. By reducing reliance on fossil fuels and cutting emissions, these aircraft contribute to achieving climate targets and promoting sustainable air travel.
  3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT):
    • Technology Enhancements: MIT researchers are exploring innovative approaches to hydrogen fueling infrastructure that leverage emerging technologies such as additive manufacturing, advanced materials, and robotics. They are developing flexible and modular systems that can be rapidly deployed and customized to meet the specific needs of different aviation stakeholders.
    • Uniqueness of Research: MIT’s research integrates cutting-edge engineering with systems thinking and policy analysis to address the complex challenges of hydrogen infrastructure deployment. They are investigating factors such as regulatory frameworks, market incentives, and public acceptance to create a favorable ecosystem for hydrogen adoption in aviation.
    • End-use Applications: The hydrogen fueling infrastructure solutions developed at MIT have broad applications across the aviation value chain, from airport operations and aircraft maintenance to airline operations and air traffic management. By providing reliable and cost-effective hydrogen supply solutions, MIT’s research accelerates the transition to low-carbon aviation and promotes sustainable development in the aerospace industry.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

While still in its early stages, the commercial implementation of hydrogen fueling infrastructure is gaining momentum. Several airports, including Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, are developing pilot projects to test and demonstrate hydrogen fueling systems. As the demand for hydrogen-powered aircraft grows and technology costs decline, the development of a robust and widespread hydrogen fueling infrastructure is expected to accelerate in the coming years.